The SUV segment starts at around Rs 5 lakh and goes right up to a crore of rupees or even more, but that hasn’t stopped people from gobbling them up. Riding this wave are manufacturers who are bringing in a slew of new off-roaders and soft-roaders into the market. We look at which ones are around the corner and tell you whether it might make sense to hold on to your purse strings for a little longer.
When: August 2011
How much: Rs 10-14 lakh
Force Motors may be a new name to many in the passenger vehicle business, but actually it has been around for ages, with its various iterations of the Trax. Now, with a new name (Force Motors Personal Vehicles Division) and a new product, it wants the market to take it seriously.The Force One is a Ford Endeavour-sized SUV, with a price tag that will appeal to both Mahindra Scorpio, Tata Safari and Ford Endeavour buyers. Powering the seven-seater Force One is a 2.2-litre common-rail diesel from a two-generation old Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which produces 140 bhp and 32 plus kgm of peak torque. The body shell is borrowed from the Guangdong Foday Explorer III, a Chinese SUV, but has been completely developed in-house, with ride and handling fine-tuned by the expert hands at Lotus Engineering.
When: October 2011
How much: Rs 13-16 lakh
Mahindra, well known for its body-on-ladder SUVs, is making its first foray in the monocoque space with the W201. Designed to take on the likes of the Chevrolet Captiva, but with a lower price tag, the W201 features the tried and tested 2.2-litre mHawk diesel engine, but with 140 bhp and a bit more torque. Interestingly, this engine can be tuned to 160 bhp, given the right gearbox. A five-speed manual may be offered, but we are also betting on a six-speed manual and an automatic to feature on the W201 at some point. Cruise control, ABS, airbags, traction control and LED daytime running lights will be the highlights of the W201. Of course, 4WD will be part of the package, but whether Mahindra opts for a real-time all-wheel drive setup or a shift-on-the-fly setup remains to be seen. The W201 will have a competitive price tag, making life very difficult for some Rs 20 lakh SUVs too!
When: December ’11-Jan ’12
How much: Rs 17-18 lakh
Now part of Mahindra, Ssangyong is a South Korea-based SUV manufacturer that will set foot in India by early next year. One of its first products will be the Korando. Designed to be a soft-roader like the Chevrolet Captiva and the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Korando is a very stylish-looking SUV that has some high-quality engineering behind it. Under the hood of the Korando is a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine with about 175 bhp, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed auto is under development. The Korando will come in as a CKD and will be assembled at Mahindra’s new facility on the outskirts of Pune.
When: October - Dec 2011
How much: Rs 9 to 13 lakh
Tata’s SUV is getting a redesign, a more refined engine, new interiors and improved build quality and dynamics. The new Safari may appear as an evolution, but this second generation SUV is expected to be quite an improvement. Taking things forward from the Aria, the Safari will have the revised 2.2-litre diesel motor from the crossover as well as features like airbags, ABS and possibly even cruise control on the top-end models. The interiors are expected to be better put together, with better quality materials and improved fit and finish levels. Space is expected to increase marginally and the price tag may see a slight upward shift to account for the changes.
When: October 2011
How much: Rs 16-19 lakh
The Koleos is a soft-roader, which means it has driving dynamics akin to a car, with a fair bit of off-road capability because of 4x4 and Hill Descent Control. It’s got some interesting interior seating options, so you can carry luggage of varying dimensions and, if need be, the odd bicycle. Importantly, the Koleos has received a 5-star EuroNCAP rating which, of course, says a lot about its dynamics and safety. Under the hood will be the 1995cc dCi motor that, internationally, produces 147 bhp and 32.6 kgm of torque. It will be paired to a six-speed auto ’box, making the engine and transmission package quite a perfect fit for buyers in this segment.
When: Sept-Oct 2011
How much: Rs 60-65 lakh
The Touareg is a little-known luxury SUV in India, with the current generation finding very few homes. But Volkswagen hopes to change that with the new Touareg. This seven-seat SUV will once again feature a 3.0-litre diesel motor with about 240 bhp and an eight-speed auto ’box as standard. The engine is a well-known and proven motor and is even found in the Audi Q7. Loaded with features like adaptive light assist, blind lane information system, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control, the Touareg will be as capable on-road as it will be off-road. Based on the same platform as the new Porsche Cayenne, the Touareg is about 200 kg lighter than its predecessor, which has made it more efficient and quicker too. Expect it to carry a more premium price tag than the outgoing Touareg.
When: March-April 2012
How much: Rs 7-9 lakh
The Duster, like the Logan, is a Dacia product. And going by the Logan’s rugged build quality and reliability, the Duster won’t be one to disappoint. It looks purposeful, if a bit understated, and has got the works to make it a fairly capable off-roader. The Duster will primarily share the 1.5-litre dCi engine, as seen in the Fluence sedan, which will produce roughly 110 bhp. A more powerful engine is likely to be added to the Duster’s portfolio, although that is not clear as of the moment. The Duster is available worldwide with a 4x4 unit as an option and, because of the 200 mm ground clearance, it can put all that hardware to good use.
When: August 2011
How much: Rs 41-44 lakh
One of the benchmarks of SUVs with car-like handling is the BMW X3. The 2011 X3 sports smarter headlamps and a mildly redesigned grille and hood. In profile, the X3 retains its stance despite minor tweaks, while the rear end now has tail lamps more in sync with the new BMW family lineup. On the engines front, BMW has an interesting range of options, starting from the xDrive20d, a 1995cc, inline-four cylinder diesel followed by the xDrive30d, a 2993cc, six-cylinder diesel and lastly the 2979cc xDrive35i petrol. BMW’s rising sales and popularity in the country will only help the new X3 refresh its fight with Audi’s Q5, and we can’t wait to pit the duo together.
When: April-May 2012
How much: Rs 24.5-30 lakh
The Q3 is Audi’s answer to BMW’s X1. Both are their respective manufacturers’ baby-SUVs and the latter has seen a fair bit of success in the country already. The Q3 is third in the series of Q cars from Audi, and it is essentially a scaled-down Q5. It sports a distinctive grille and headlamps, with the rest of the car being identical to the Q5, only smaller. On the inside, the Q3 is a proper five-seater with a boot that won’t have you complaining during holiday season. The 2.0-litre TDI and 2.0 TFSI engines will be the primary sources of propulsion in the Q5, although one can also expect a smaller motor in order to undercut the competition.
When: Jan-March 2012
How much: Rs 52-55 lakh
The Mercedes-Benz ML-Class is quite a favourite in its segment and also one of the most affordable. The 2011 edition of the SUV looks larger, though less brutal, but it’s more Euro-chic overall. The ML is quite capable off-road; it is no mountain goat, but will see you through slush and the like with ease. On the road, the ML will retain its car-like driving characteristics and you can expect it to be more plush. On the engine front, we expect the ML in the 350 CDI and 350 petrol V6 guise. Expect an AMG variant too!